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Pharmacoeconomics. 2004;22(3):185-95.

Cost effectiveness of interventions for lateral epicondylitis: results from a randomised controlled trial in primary care.

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Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



Lateral epicondylitis is a common complaint, with an annual incidence between 1% and 3% in the general population. The Dutch College of General Practitioners in The Netherlands has issued guidelines that recommend a wait-and-see policy. However, these guidelines are not evidence based.


This paper presents the results of an economic evaluation in conjunction with a randomised controlled trial to evaluate the effects of three interventions in primary care for patients with lateral epicondylitis.


Patients with pain at the lateral side of the elbow were randomised to one of three interventions: a wait-and-see policy, corticosteroid injections or physiotherapy.


Clinical outcomes included general improvement, pain during the day, elbow disability and QOL. The economic evaluation was conducted from a societal perspective. Direct and indirect costs (in 1999 values) were measured by means of cost diaries over a period of 12 months. Differences in mean costs between groups were evaluated by applying non-parametric bootstrap techniques. The mean total costs per patient for corticosteroid injections were euro430, compared with euro631 for the wait-and-see policy and euro921 for physiotherapy. After 12 months, the success rate in the physiotherapy group (91%) was significantly higher than in the injection group (69%), but only slightly higher than in the wait-and-see group (83%). The differences in costs and effects showed no dominance for any of the three groups. The incremental cost-utility ratios were (approximately): euro7000 per utility gain for the wait-and-see policy versus corticosteroid injections; euro12000 per utility gain for physiotherapy versus corticosteroid injections, and euro34500 for physiotherapy versus the wait-and-see policy.


The results of this economic evaluation provided no reason to update or amend the Dutch guidelines for GPs, which recommend a wait-and-see policy for patients with lateral epicondylitis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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